We are all familiar with the common, romantic fairytale ending that “they got married and lived happily ever after.” Sometimes, I think we tend to look at our walks with the Lord the same way. We view it almost as if salvation were “getting married,” and our future, eternal life were the “living happily ever after.” These things might be so, but we tend then to ignore the part in between, which is where most of us are now. And yet here, between salvation and happily ever after, we need to live for the Lord as He wants us to live.

In our last message, we began this topic by considering several truths about how we should be living “between now and happily ever after.” Then, we went on to begin considering the negative example of Samson from the Bible, as a man who failed to live for God in spite of his special relationship with Him.

In our last message, we had examined Judges 14, and seen how Samson stubbornly insisted on marrying a Philistine girl. When she tricked him into giving away the answer to a riddle he had wagered on with his groomsmen, however, he had left her in anger. Now, we take up the story in the first verse of Judges 15.

1. After a while, in the time of wheat harvest, it happened that Samson visited his wife with a young goat. And he said, “Let me go in to my wife, into her room.” But her father would not permit him to go in.
2. Her father said, “I really thought that you thoroughly hated her; therefore I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister better than she? Please, take her instead.”

Samson’s anger cools after a while, and he wants his wife again. When he goes to see her, however, he finds out that she has been given to someone else. Her father tries to talk him into taking her younger sister instead, but this bargain is not acceptable to Samson.

3. And Samson said to them, “This time I shall be blameless regarding the Philistines if I harm them!” 4. Then Samson went and caught three hundred foxes; and he took torches, turned the foxes tail to tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails. 5. When he had set the torches on fire, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines, and burned up both the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves.

Samson decides he is justified in taking vengeance upon the Philistines because he has lost his wife. Therefore, he invents this ingenious way of destroying the crops of the Philistines. We can only imagine the destruction the flight of these terrified foxes caused!

6. Then the Philistines said, “Who has done this?”
And they answered, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken his wife and given her to his companion.” So the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire.

The Philistines are, of course, incensed by the destruction of their crops. Remember, this was their livelihood for many of them. They want revenge, and when they learn that Samson did it and why, they decide to take vengeance upon the woman who had been Samson’s wife. Thus, they burn her and her father to death. You see how this war of revenge keeps escalating more and more. That is how it is when one sets out to get revenge. The vengeance is always worse than the original wrong!

7. Samson said to them, “Since you would do a thing like this, I will surely take revenge on you, and after that I will cease.” 8. So he attacked them hip and thigh with a great slaughter; then he went down and dwelt in the cleft of the rock of Etam.

Samson is not pleased by the death of his wife, and he attacks the Philistines who did this and kills them with a “great slaughter.”

9. Now the Philistines went up, encamped in Judah, and deployed themselves against Lehi. 10. And the men of Judah said, “Why have you come up against us?”
So they answered, “We have come up to arrest Samson, to do to him as he has done to us.”

Now the Philistines are ready to start a war with the Israelites in vengeance for what Samson has done. This matter of cheating in answering a riddle has, through the desire for revenge, escalated to this!

11. Then three thousand men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines rule over us? What is this you have done to us?”
And he said to them, “As they did to me, so I have done to them.”

This is always the answer of the one who has sought revenge. He thinks he has done nothing that was not justified by what had been done to him. Yet does wrong done to us really justify our doing wrong back again? As the old saying goes, “Two wrongs do not make a right.” Yet everything is justified in the mind of Samson. Remember, though, that this is all by the Lord’s plan, to cause trouble between Samson and the Philistines, so that Samson, who does not care whether or not he fulfills the Lord’s mission for him to free Israel from the Philistines, will be forced into a conflict with them.

12. But they said to him, “We have come down to arrest you, that we may deliver you into the hand of the Philistines.”
Then Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not kill me yourselves.”
13. So they spoke to him, saying, “No, but we will tie you securely and deliver you into their hand; but we will surely not kill you.” And they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

The Philistines have power over the Israelites, and they have no desire to upset them, so they have come to arrest Samson. He agrees to this, as long as they promise only to bind him and not to kill him themselves. This, they are willing to do. But Samson knows the strength that God has given him, and has more in mind than meek surrender. Yet his argument is not with the Israelites, but with the Philistines, and so he lets them arrest him.

14. When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting against him. Then the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him; and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands. 15. He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, reached out his hand and took it, and killed a thousand men with it. 16. Then Samson said: “With the jawbone of a donkey, Heaps upon heaps, With the jawbone of a donkey I have slain a thousand men!”
17. And so it was, when he had finished speaking, that he threw the jawbone from his hand, and called that place Ramath Lehi.

It would have been an amazing thing to watch Samson doing this. We would have to imagine that he needed more than just God-given strength to accomplish such a feat. He would have needed something more, like a supernatural speed, or else some kind of Spirit-given defense against the blows the Philistines were leveling against him, for surely some of them would have gotten through if he had not had more than just strength to aid him. But at any rate, God allowed him to accomplish this great victory, and this one man kills a thousand, and sets the entire Philistine army to flight! Thus, we see indeed that, in spite of the pettiness of this whole argument, God’s plan was being worked out through what was taking place.

18. Then he became very thirsty; so he cried out to the LORD and said, “You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant; and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?”

This is the first time we see Samson turn to the Lord or show any concern for Him at all during any of this, and it is when he is in trouble that he does so. Little did Samson care for God’s will, or His instruction, or His leading in any of these events that have been taking place. But now, when his life is in danger, he calls upon the Lord for the help he needs. Alas, how like Samson we often behave! When it comes to getting our own way, we have no time for the Lord. When it comes to getting petty vengeance or doing things we know he would not approve of, we have no time for the Lord. But when we are in trouble and need His help, we not only are quick to bring our requests to Him, but are full of reasoning as to why He should help us out of the situation we have gotten ourselves in. This is not the attitude of a mature believer! Yet how easy it is to treat God this way.

19. So God split the hollow place that is in Lehi, and water came out, and he drank; and his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore he called its name En Hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day.

The Lord graciously answers Samson’s request. He splits open a hollow place in Lehi, and water comes out. (Lehi literally means “jawbone,” so it may be that this water came out of the very same instrument which Samson had just used to defeat the Philistines.) Therefore, Samson drinks and survives.

20. And he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

Now, Samson judges Israel. To be fair to him, he must have had some level of communication with the Lord at this time, or he could not have done this. To judge Israel, he needed not just God’s permission, but also God’s leadership and help. As a man who worked with God for twenty years, we would expect that this would cause some major change for the better in his life. Yet, when we come to the next chapter, we will see that Samson twenty years later is pretty much the same as Samson as a young man. He seems to have all the same faults, and fall into all the same sinful habits. His behavior must have been better for the twenty years he judged Israel, yet you could hardly tell it for the way he acts in the next chapter. Let us examine the record the Lord has given us.

1. Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her.

Once again Samson goes to a place he should not be: a Philistine city. Once again, he sees a Philistine woman who attracts his fancy, and once again he falls for her. This time, however, the woman is a harlot, and he goes in to her. Perhaps, as we say in our society, he was having a mid-life crisis.

2. When the Gazites were told, “Samson has come here!” they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. They were quiet all night, saying, “In the morning, when it is daylight, we will kill him.”

The Philistines still have not forgotten the havoc Samson had caused twenty years earlier. Indeed, the defeat of their army at the hands of one single man must have been a great humiliation for them, and they are still stewing all this time later, and are ready for revenge. When they hear, therefore, that Samson is in the city, they lie in wait to kill him when he tries to leave the city by the gate. They must have supposed that it was easier to wait for him there than to seek him out.

3. And Samson lay low till midnight; then he arose at midnight, took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two gateposts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.

We are not told for certain how, but Samson seems to know the plot that has been hatched against him. Thus, he leaves the prostitute at midnight and proceeds to the gate. It appears that they were not lying in wait for him yet. The gate was closed for the night, and they must have supposed that no one could get through it until it was opened in the morning. Yet a closed city gate is no problem for Samson, with the help of the Spirit of God upon him. He merely picks up the gate and carries it with him to the top of the hill that faces his home country of Hebron. To understand the full weight of this, we need to realize that city gates at that time were designed to keep enemy invaders out of your city. Thus, they were huge, and would have weighed tons. For a single man to carry them would have been physically impossible. Yet Samson’s power is not that of a mere man, but he is given this power by the Lord. Thus, he carries this entire city gate with him, and escapes from Gaza and the trap of the Philistines. But we realize that this rescue was really empowered and brought about by God, not by Samson. How gracious God was to him once again, to deliver him out of the trouble he had gotten himself into! God, of course, was under no obligation to do this. Yet He acted graciously with Samson, even when Samson behaved in a way that showed he was not thinking about God’s will at all.

4. Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.

Once again, Samson falls for a woman from the land of the Philistines, this time from the Valley of Sorek. This time, we learn her name, Delilah. It seems that Samson never could generate interest in a Godly woman, one of his own people, the Israelites. Instead, he preferred the excitement of an ungodly Philistine woman. Twice, God has rescued him from his foolishness. This time will be his downfall.

5. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.”

Of course, this becomes known to the Philistines. This time, they give up all thought of fighting Samson, or even trapping him. They decide, instead, that there must be some secret to his great strength. Of course, these ungodly men had no concept of the Spirit of the LORD or of the empowerment He gives. Yet they were correct, in that Samson had a source for his unnatural strength that had nothing to do with his own muscle power or human capabilities. Thus, the rulers of the Philistines, all of them, come to this woman Delilah, and request of her that she will discover for them the secret of Samson’s great strength, and how they might overpower him. As a reward for doing this, they offer her great wealth, promising her eleven hundred pieces of silver apiece! This was an amazing sum, and the woman jumps at this offer. Remember, again, that she is an ungodly Philistine, and we could expect no more from her. Far better off would Samson have been with a truehearted Israelite woman!

6. So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and with what you may be bound to afflict you.”

In a familiar echo of his wife from much earlier in his life, Delilah sets to work on Samson to seek to entice him to tell her his great secret.

7. And Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”

It seems that, at first, Samson just plays with Delilah, making up a fanciful tale to explain his great strength.

8. So the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, and she bound him with them. 9. Now men were lying in wait, staying with her in the room. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he broke the bowstrings as a strand of yarn breaks when it touches fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.

Delilah tries out this method that he said would subdue him, but of course it was just a lie, and Samson breaks these strings as if they were nothing.

10. Then Delilah said to Samson, “Look, you have mocked me and told me lies. Now, please tell me what you may be bound with.”
11. So he said to her, “If they bind me securely with new ropes that have never been used, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”
12. Therefore Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them, and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And men were lying in wait, staying in the room. But he broke them off his arms like a thread.

Delilah pouts over this, and Samson again makes up a fanciful tale to satisfy her. Perhaps he was reminded of the ropes he broke when he was delivered to the Philistine those many years before. At any rate, Delilah tries out this method as well, with the same results.

13. Delilah said to Samson, “Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me what you may be bound with.”
And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my head into the web of the loom”—

A verse is missing here from the Hebrew text. Apparently, two lines in close proximity began with the same words, and some copyist’s eyes skipped from the first line to the second, and thus missed writing the first line. This portion, however, is preserved for us in the Septuagint, and the Companion Bible gives it as follows:

“If you were to weave the seven locks of my head into the web of the loom and fasten them with a pin, I shall be as another man.”
And it came to pass that when he was asleep that Delilah took the seven locks of his head and wove them with the web, and fastened them with a pin.

 
Thankfully, the Septuagint preserves this verse that would otherwise have been lost.

14. So she wove it tightly with the batten of the loom, and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep, and pulled out the batten and the web from the loom.

This time Samson moves closer to the truth, admitting that the secret has something to do with his hair. However, the secret he gives her is still an invention, and thus, when she tries it, he still breaks free easily.

15. Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies.” 16. And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death,

This time, she presses him harder yet, and he apparently has tired of his game of making up false secrets. She keeps after him, as only a stubborn and nagging woman could, until he is sick to death of it.

17. that he told her all his heart, and said to her, “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”

Now God had never told Samson this…that if he shaved his head, he would lose his strength. For that matter, Samson had never given much thought to his Nazarite pledge, as we saw earlier when he broke the rules regarding touching a dead body. Yet it seems that Samson realizes that his hair symbolizes this special relationship he has with God, and he believes that if it were cut, he would lose that relationship, and thus would lose his strength. So this time, he tells her the truth, and lets her know about this special, Nazarite relationship with the LORD that he has.

18. When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all his heart.” So the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hand.

Delilah senses the truth, and is so confident that she tells the lords of the Philistines to come themselves this time and to bring the money, which they do.

19. Then she lulled him to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him.

Delilah again acts out the instructions Samson gave her for defeating him, and then begins to test (not torment!) him to see if this time it has worked. This time, sure enough, the Lord removes His Spirit-given strength from Samson, now that the symbol of their special, Nazarite relationship is gone. So Samson was correct in telling her that this would remove his strength, though God had never told him this, at least, not that we know of. It may be that God communicated this with him, and it is just not recorded.

20. And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.

This verse answers a question that we might have reading through the account, and that is what Samson expected to have happen now? Three times he had told Delilah a story about how to subdue him, and every time she had tried it on him as soon as she could. Samson must have known that she would do it again, as soon as he told her the truth. Even if we imagine that she pretended the first three time that the Philistines lying in wait for him in her house were just her friends pulling a joke or something like that, we have trouble imagining that Samson would really want to be humbled before them. Yet here we see the extent to which Samson’s arrogant pride had led him. He actually believed that, in spite of his giving away the secret of his Nazarite vow and Delilah cutting his hair, he could still battle the Philistines and win as he had before! That is, he was actually deceived enough by his own pride to suppose that he could do the same feats of strength that he had done with the Lord’s help on his own. As I said earlier, there is no indication that Samson was any bigger or more muscular than anyone else. The idea that he could do the things he did without God’s help is ludicrous. Yet Samson’s pride made him think that he could actually win on his own. Well, his pride is humbled, and he is captured easily by his enemies.

21. Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison.

The Philistines probably want to insure that, now that Samson is in their power, he will never have the opportunity to become the threat to them that he was before. Thus, they blind him, putting out his eyes. Then, they throw him in prison, and make him grind grain for them like a beast of burden. Surely Samson must have cursed his own stupidity at this point, but it was far too late. His pride had come before a fall, as Proverbs 16:18 says, and what a fall it was!

22. However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven.

Nazarites whose hair had to be cut due to something breaking their vow could allow it to grow and start the vow over again. Thus, we read here that Samson’s hair started to grow again, moving him back towards that special relationship with God. Perhaps, too, the realization was growing in Samson’s heart as to how much he owed to God, and how little he could do on his own. But if this outward growth of hair was accompanied by an inward growth of faith, we see no certain sign of it in the text.

23. Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.”

The Philistines are the ones now who show pride. They do not see that the true God had left Samson because of his disobedience and breaking the special relationship they had with each other. Instead, they see great religious significance in this, thinking that their god Dagon is the one who has won this victory for them. Thus, they make a great feast to Dagon in the temple of Dagon, and all the rulers of the Philistines attend. This might be looked at as a great national pride gathering, for a nation’s gods were strongly linked up with national pride at that time.

24. When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, “Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain.”

When the people see the defeated Samson, they offer this song of praise to their god. How this must have grated upon Samson, this constant reminder of his failure and pride! Of course, he knew the truth: that he had let God down, not that their god had defeated him.

25. While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them.

Now they call Samson into the temple to perform for them. It seems the previous comment was parenthetical, simply stating what the people generally did whenever Samson appeared publicly before this. By “perform,” it probably means that they paraded him around to laugh at him.

When they stood him among the pillars, 26. Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.”

Archaeologists have confirmed that the temple of Dagon was indeed built around two, huge support pillars. This seems a rather foolish design to us, but it probably had some religious significance in their minds. It would be their undoing now.

27. Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform.

We see again that this was a huge crowd that had come to laugh at Samson and celebrate his defeat. It seems that none of them thought to worry about his growing hair, however. They looked at him as finally and totally defeated.

28. Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”

Here, we read Samson’s desperate prayer to God. We look for Samson to apologize to God for his sin and pride. We look for him to have a humble attitude. We look perhaps for a changed heart caused by all the terrible trials he has gone through thanks to his cavalier attitude towards his special relationship with God. Yet, though we look for these, we look in vain. Samson offers God no apologies. He makes no humble confessions. Instead, he merely asks God to grant him one more request by allowing him to get revenge on his enemies. No change of heart has taken place in Samson. All this time, when he has been facing all this humiliation at the hands of the Philistines, he has not been thinking of how he has let down the Lord, or how he has disappointed Him, or wishing to restore his relationship with Him. Instead, he has been seething at the Philistines, and wishing for one last chance to get revenge upon them. The same old Samson! How sad that even this fall has failed to bring him to a place of seeking a better relationship with the Lord!

29. Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 30. Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

So ends the life of Samson, with the Lord granting his last two requests, giving him one last feat of great strength, and allowing him to die in his final, greatest revenge upon his enemies.

31. Then his brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led Israel twenty years.

So Samson’s family comes for him and buries him in his family tomb. Thus ends the life of one chosen by God for a special relationship with Himself. Yet how sad that Samson never did value that relationship! How sad that his thoughts never seemed to lift higher than himself!

Samson is a sad reminder of the defeat a believer can face who lives for himself rather than for the Lord. There is nothing more wonderful, in my mind, than a believer living in constant, loving relationship with the Lord.  And there is nothing sadder for a believer than to be neutralized by Satan, made lukewarm and of no effect, and kept from any sort of true relationship with God.

I pray that everyone who reads this message will make it their highest priority in life to live in constant, loving, growing relationship with the Lord and Savior Who loves us so much, and Who gave Himself for us! That is what is most important for us as we live between now and happily ever after.

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